If you are looking for an introduction to critically acclaimed comics in one volume while also getting a dose of exposure to some newer talents, Atomeka Press has teamed up with Titan Comics to release a new hardcover volume, A1 Annual: The World’s Greatest Comics. With such a loaded title, you’d expect the entries to be pretty powerful stuff. You’ll certainly find a broad mix of story and art styles, but ultimately beauty is in the eye of the reader. Does the volume live up to the title?
No doubt everyone, no matter how critical your eye, will find at least a few gems here. When you realize you’re dealing with the likes of Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jim Steranko, Alan Moore, and James Robinson, it’s pretty easy to see why the editors had the chutzpah to come up with such a cocky title.
The selections chosen are sometimes zany, sometimes striking, and make for a layered anthology series familiar to readers of McSweeney’s Quarterly. This include plenty of coffee talk. That’s right, interspersed with the main entries are photos of coffee, coffee facts and anecdotes, and an article on barista art.
The comic book story entries include serious and humorous fare. As for the serious, this includes the political. The best example is a great entry titled “Image Duplicator,” by Rian Hughes and Dave Gibbons, which amounts to a critical indictment of the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, who appropriated many of his images from comic book artists without compensation or acknowledgement. This comes via appropriations of Lichtenstein’s work as parodies by modern masters including Howard Chaykin (who has a few choice words for Lichtenstein) and John Romita. The entry really brings some gravity to the anthology.
The best entry may be, not surprisingly, Steranko’s submission, titled Frogs! A series of panels thirty years in the making (explained in the story’s afterward), Frogs! must be seen to be appreciated. Steranko used a limited black and white and green color palette and a series of simple but descriptive images cut in sequence between other images to create an almost zoetrope-like movement effect.
In addition to the classic creators listed above you’ll find contributions by Alex Sheikman, Norman Felchle, Sandy Plunkett, Dave Elliott, Toby Cypress, Sakti Yuwono, Bambos Georgiou, Dominic Regan, Scott Hampton, Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Emily Hu, Michael T. Gilbert, Dave Elliott, Barnaby Bagenda, Jessica Kholinne, D’Israeli, Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley.
An interesting overview of the breadth of comicdom, A1 Annual: The World’s Greatest Comics is available at local comic book stores and via Amazon.com.